I was reading back in this blog to remember my life as it was and saw a lot of flailing and spittle about Austin vs. Phoenix, and Austin in general. I figured I'd weigh in, in year three, basically a native now, with some observations about the capital of Texas.
1. Locals are low-level obsessed with letting you know they were born here if they were.
Probably for good reason, they resent the extremely dramatic changes the city has incurred in the last 20 years. The younger they are, the less they care, but the old ones are ready to go at any time or place with the comparisons. This is the same everywhere, but not many cities have experienced the drastic changes that Austin has. Now that I am an old-timey resident, I feel for them where I used to just roll my eyes. It does suck, mon. Unless you owned property before the deluge, and then it fucking RULE$$$ and you're hoodrich, where you were dustbowl poor before. I kind of hate those people, because they think they are Richard Branson-style wealth geniuses, when in reality, they're just bumpkinasses who didn't leave the place they were born and eventually struck oil on their land, due to other people. Yeah, I'm looking at you, former landord.
When I got here, I was sort of enraged by how hyperlocal people are, and by that I mean they won't travel outside of the 2 mile radius of where they live. Coming from a city that's legit 500 square miles, I thought that was some kind of full bullshit self-absorbed need to never travel for anything. Everyone I knew in Phoenix lived 50 miles away and we just dealt with it, finding central spaces to meet upon. But, just this afternoon, I was reading the review of a new restaurant that opened about 5 miles away and said to myself, "Sounds cool but I'm not going that far." Turns out there's a valid reason - traffic is truly satanic at all hours of the day, and traffic in that particular direction (central city to south Lamar) is basically totally fucked up at all times. Unless you have to go (to Target or to a special movie showing) you ain't gonna bother.
3. No food to eat
So this isn't entirely true, but Austin's food selection is often just a lot of the same thing. Like upscale versions of garbage comfort food? You got it, dude. Tex-Mex? It's aplenty. Want barbecue, preferably with low quality sides? GET HERE WITH A QUICKNESS. Chinese, Italian, Greek? Forget about it. Yeah, it's here, but it's either a chain, or not good, or real far. I don't know, man. We're no Houston.
4. History 50/50
The large quantity of sentimental boomers still in Austin (see #1) means that there's kinda? some appreciation of older architecture, but the vastly more powerful developers, who are dominating everywhere and everything are prevailing. Austin has a big sense of self and a sense of its history, but it's a very localized, white thing. The people of gentrified neighborhoods are trying to preserve what they can where they can, but it's a tough fight and they don't have the power or money to really get anywhere. So, if you want one vein of history, again, get here, but be warned that it's only fancy white history. You'll never learn about the legacies of black or latino peoples unless you dig real deep, and care a lot.
5. Parties and Events
Yes this city still loves a party. I finally moved away from the Zilker area, home of SXSW, ACL and other massive-ass events I'll never take part in, and yet I can still hear and feel the deep thrumming of bass drifting over the river and trees to my bedroom. Although I've moved miles from the center od destruction, and I'm now in a fully silk-stocking old timey beautiful rich neighborhood, it still touches us. I'm not mad, because it mostly doesn't disrupt my drive or life, but it's there, and I can't go south during the Christmas season because of the completely underwhelming yet popular Trail of Lights.
and that brings us to
6. Local Pride
Yes, the locals be loving their city and state in a way that anyone outside of Texas, who was never a Texan, will never understand. I appreciate the sense of place, but it's still foreign to me to be that defensive of a geographic area. I personally think they should calm down, but they don't care what I think because I'm a dirty foreigner forever. Even someone who moved here at 6 mos old is a foreigner by some estimations. Many believe that you must have been born on the soil, whether it be the deserts of west or south, or in the bayous of the east, or in the distinctly Oklahomaish handle, to have imbued the *magic* of Texasness. Perhaps it's true. Perhaps I could feel the same way about Arizona, if I was possessed by a supernatural sense of pride or MDMA.
You can tell a local by their accent, which is an admittedly pleasant mix of twang and drawl, and which is utterly rare, leading me to believe that they were raised by real Southerners, or that they are exaggerating. Nevertheless, I enjoy it. You can also tell a local by their familiarity and/or love of Ann Richards, which pervades even the conservative-est of local Republicans.